Transfer quarterback takes control of offense

Brad Schmidt

Sacramento State quarterback Jeff Fleming has come a long way in short time after being thrust into a starting position just six days following his arrival in Sacramento.

Going into this season, the Sac State football team had a proven quarterback who seemed destined to lead the Hornets to a big year. All of that changed when UCLA transfer McLeod Bethel-Thompson went down with an ankle injury in the first half during the season opener against Stanford.

In came a 6-foot-4, 175-pound transfer from New Mexico State University who had just recently joined the team.

“Jeff arrived here just six days before he played his first game,” said junior wide receiver Chase Deadder. “Right away, he had good chemistry with his receivers and picked up the system really easily.”

As a starter this season, Fleming has led his team to a 2-2 record, while throwing for 838 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.

“We have had to adapt the offense to match Jeff’s unique abilities to roll out and run the ball and attack the perimeter of the defense,” said head coach Marshall Sperbeck.

Although the season is still young, Fleming has already begun to win over his coaches and teammates.

“Jeff doesn’t get rattled and always maintains his composure,” Sperbeck said. “He makes great decisions under pressure and is able to create something out of nothing with his legs.”

Deadder found out the kind of competitor Fleming is in last weeks hard-fought game against Montana University.

“Jeff took a good hit trying to throw me the ball and just shook it off even though he had a bloody lip,” Deadder said. “Even though he could barely think straight, he stuck in there and kept going after it.”

Fleming was offered a scholarship at the Division-I level to New Mexico State University. Fleming played in all 13 games for the Aggies in 2009, starting nine games. He threw for 789 yards on the season, including four touchdowns and was 87-of-172 on his pass attempts with 12 interceptions.

After enduring a 3-10 record that included seven consecutive losses to end last season, Fleming said he is happy to have a chance to win this semester.

“New Mexico State wanted me to become a purely wildcat quarterback and my heart just wasn’t able to grasp the role that had been placed on me,” Fleming said. “Sac State overall seemed like a great place to learn about the game from a starting quarterback that could prepare me for the backup role as well as the starting role for next season.”

As Fleming continues to adjust to his new team, the question of who will be the starter when Bethel-Thompson returns is uncertain.

“I have no idea what will happen when McLeod comes back,” Fleming said. “All I can do is wish him the best in his recovery and when that time comes we will see.”

In the meantime, Fleming said he will continue to learn the playbook.

“All I can do is keep learning the offense, play to the best of my abilities and hopefully help my team reach the playoffs,” Fleming said.

Brad Schmidt can be reached at [email protected]